The Revolutionary Communist Party’s New Face

Ferg Revcom

Its unlikely many of today’s activists understand the significance of the “Second Red Scare” let alone the driving force against Communism in the 40’s and 50’s. If they did, then they would undoubtedly understand the American Right’s reaction to the modern iteration of Communism and its place in the nationwide spread of direct action. From Ferguson to Oakland, one organizing entity has reigned supreme, despite being low-key and benefitting from pseudo journalism, rebuffing claims of their presence.  They reached their zenith in April with the #A14 Shutdown movement against police brutality. The resurgence of Communism in the form of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has been baffling to some, and down right aggravating to others. In all of the confusion two questions must be answered, Who are the “Revcoms” and why now?

Whose Revolution?

The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA like many other activist groups trace their lineage to one or two movements existing in the 1960’s. As with many of these groups, the Revolutionary Communist Party, also known as Revcom, was formed after a split from a larger group. In this case, Revcom was a break-away group from the Students for a Democratic Society. Co-Founders Carl Dix, and Bob Avakian formally organized Revcom in 1975 and based it off of Avakian’s plethora of writings on what they termed, “the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.”  In short, Avakian and his comrades believe in the destruction of the current political, social, and economic systems in favor of a vanguard-led society where the workers produce and trade goods and services without the burdens of capitalism. In this new-found society old vestiges of patriarchy, oppression, capitalism, and racism would be a thing of the past. Freedom would be found in the ability to produce and consume as one great communal collective.

Why Communism Now?

Avakian and Dix are old school activists who understand that the bold, in-your-face direct action favored by millennial activists will not work. Instead, they favor a far more intellectual approach to revolution. Unlike socialist-anarchists, Revcoms choose to “smash the system” by highlighting obvious manifestations of the oppressive system one at a time, and organizing activists to confront those elements, all the while pointing out how obvious it is that change is required. All the while Revcoms hint that their system in the best alternative.

This is what led Revcom to the current “police reform” movement. To Revcom, Mike Brown, Walter Scott, and Eric Garner are all victims of the capitalist bourgeoisie oppressing African American men at the heel of white cops. The police are the jackbooted thugs of the system, therefore they are the most obvious target for direct action. Hence, the #A14 Shut Down against police brutality. Dix is no stranger to anti-law enforcement movements. He is the driving force behind the “Stop Mass Incarceration Network” (SMIN) which focuses solely on law enforcements’ interaction with Black America. #A14 was held on SMIN’s traditional day of action and not so incidentally, it was also Equal Pay Day. More on this another time.

A quick review of photographs from the “Hands Up” and Black Lives Matter events across the country reveal a large number of Revcom signs and supporters. The prevalence of Revcom paraphernalia is a sign Dix and Avakian have succeeded in connecting with the disenfranchised African American community, a plight they failed at in 2005. The question is, how deep is the connection? The presence of their propaganda is not necessarily a sign Communism is becoming more popular. Marches and rallies are great places to spread one’s ideology, but not a great place to understand them. For this reason, Revcom may be experiencing a flash-in-the-pan resurgence based only on the disquieted voices in the BLM movement. In fact, if history is any indication of future behavior, once people get to know Avakian and his cult-like following, they will more than likely move away from the group.

Revcom’s resurgence may soon prove to be more than just a temporary flash, as there are indications the group is moving into the “Fight for $15” living wage demonstrations. In the meantime, however they appear to be happy supplying signs, tracts, and web space for the Black Lives Matter movement. A decision that may not bring many converts, but has succeeded in bringing attention. Something Avakian craves.

Justice for Rumain vs. Black Lives Matter- Disunity Prevails

Maupin

The Arizona manifestation of the Ferguson movement began on December 2nd, 2014 when a police officer in Phoenix fired upon and killed an unarmed, suspected drug dealer, Rumain Brisbon. Immediate parallels were drawn between Brisbon and Mike Brown, giving birth to Arizona’s own “Ferguson.” From this birth, two sub-movements formed; Justice for Rumain Brisbon and Black Lives Matter Arizona.

Black Lives Matter Arizona comprised clergy, National Action Network, and African American activists from the Phoenix area, including the outspoken Reverend Jarrett Maupin. Justice for Rumain comprised millennials, immigration activists, and a smattering of other special interests. Orbiting around these two groups are Carpe Locus, Nation of Islam, and Wave of Action-Phoenix, all of whom lend their support. The Justice for Rumain group attracted more militant voices while Maupin’s group seemed to attract more tempered activists. Plenty of people rose to leadership status in the various movements but Black Lives Matter Arizona was clearly in control, and Rev. Maupin was the de facto leader.

That was until January 7th, 2015 when Reverend Maupin participated in three, staged, police scenarios armed with a body camera and a simunitions gun. In one of the scenarios Maupin is faced with a large, unarmed suspect charging toward him. Maupin fired his sim-gun “killing” the suspect. Later, when reflecting on the entire experience Maupin stated very clearly that people “need to comply…for their own safety.” Within hours of the newscast, the video of Maupin went viral on social media. By the next day, it was filling Facebook streams and Twitter feeds of friends and foe. It was quickly evident the Maupin video was going to be the watershed moment for Arizona activists.

On Friday the 9th, Yonasda Hill, the Justice for Rumain co-chair, issued a short statement on Facebook wherein she declared, “Stop police terrorism. We will never comply until the police comply. We are a movement of many leaders not just one leader.” A few hours later the entire Justice for Rumain committee issued a statement declaring the news story a “media stunt.” They went on to state, “Jarret Maupin is not our leader” and demand the officer who killed Brisbon be indicted. Tia Oso, an outspoken immigration activist and committee member declared the news story propaganda and reiterated Maupin did not speak for the group. Interestingly enough, she stated they were not anti-police, a sentiment she apparently abandoned when she penned her own statement wherein she unequivocally rejected the premise of seeing things from the police perspective. She accused Maupin of furthering police injustice, racism, and civil rights violations. Her final slap to Maupin came in the last paragraph when she stated, “There is no room for those who are focused on personal gain and glory at the expense of the community.”

Another activist linked with Justice for Rumain went even further referring to Maupin as an “Uncle Tom” and several more epithets and slurs. She engaged in direct debate with Black Lives Matters Arizona organizer Katt McKinney who tried in vain to explain why communication with the police was essential for change. Kim and her followers overpowered Katt’s arguments and affirmed their opposition any cooperation with, or understanding of, the police. Kim, Tia Oso, and many others revealed themselves to be anti-police extremists hell bent on breaking the system rather than working to correct its’ ills.

The division could not have come at a worse time for the movement. Super Bowl XLIX is just around the corner. The groups need to be unified in order to carry out any effective direct action. If the Justice for Rumain group does not unify with Black Lives Matter-Arizona, they will be forced to the outer extremes of the group which means their tactics will go from bringing attention to their cause, to “smashing the system.” A proposition that would lead to quick infiltration by the police, and an even quicker demise. Other groups have experienced a similar demise; Occupy: Phoenix and Shut Down all Ports are just a few. In many ways the dynamic at play in Arizona is one that will soon, or already is, affecting the Ferguson movement across the country. Specifically, do they strive for reasonable catharsis with law enforcement, or do they fight?

One shows promise, the other desperation.

Black Lives Matter (Profile and Analysis)

Initially formed in 2012 as a response to the Trayvon Martin shooting, the group saw little to no national attention until the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. BLM was formed by three highly educated and well documented activists who hailed from the feminist, LGBT, and immigrant rights movements. After the shooting death of Brown, Black Lives Matter took hold as a hashtag on social media with many people not knowing the hashtag already belonged to a formalized activist group. The phrase became ubiquitous during the rallies, riots, and mass civil disobedience associated with the Mike Brown movement. Several activist groups substituted their own causes into the phrase to show solidarity. In October 2014, one of the co-founders of the original Black Lives Matter group authored a scathing article in an online feminist forum decrying the theft of her work and alleging racism by those who substituted their races instead of “Black.” By December 2014 nearly all acts of civil disobedience, criminal activism, and mass protests were attributed to Black Lives Matter. The protests ranged from peaceful “die-ins” to all out riots and criminal activism.

In the early days of Black Lives Matter it seemed the group was ideologically aligned with Black Liberation Theology. However, research into the group’s founders, Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors, and Alicia Garza showed them to be averse to Black Liberation in the traditional sense. While they espouse certain aspects of the theology, they stand apart in terms of deep support for LGBT African Americans, anti-statism, and women’s rights. The groups’ slogan was carried into the Mall of America and on BART in late 2014 leading to shut downs and mass arrests. During an interview in December 2014, Alicia Garza adamantly reaffirmed the group’s position that removal of “Black” from the phrase and substituting it with another cause conjures images of a non-existent post racial America. Thus doubling down on their intellectual rights and their near conspiracy theory view of America. A deep review of the group’s web presence and interviews shows they adhere to an ideology that places blame on a structural patriarchy and racism that demands the murder of African Americans. It is unlikely the many people who carry signs emblazoned with the near iconic phrase, know of the group’s deeply held beliefs.

Nevertheless, despite the founders’ ideology, thousands of people banter the phrase around at dozens of marches, rallies, and die-ins all related to the Ferguson movement.

www.blacklivesmatter.com

 

For more information on groups like Black Lives Matter, download the Protestus App, available in the Apple app store!